UNITED STATES—When creating a will, your attorney will ask you to choose an estate representative to help manage your estate upon your death. If you die without an estate plan, you also won’t have chosen a representative as these two go hand in hand. Even if you are young, creating an estate plan and selecting a representative can give you peace of mind. To understand how here is a brief overview.

What Happens When You Die Intestate?

When you die intestate, or without having made a will, you also have died without having chosen an estate representative, or an executor. This is an individual who is responsible for managing all the factors that will be involved in executing your will.

Among those responsibilities, they will help guide the estate through the probate process, so their role is crucial. If you haven’t chosen an estate representative prior to your death, the government will choose a personal representative to act on your behalf.

This process typically involves a hearing in which someone close to you will be chosen to fulfill this role. Those eligible to serve as your representative may include:

  • Spouse
  • Adult children
  • Parents or grandparents

Who Should You Choose as Your Estate Representative?

If you are not sure who to choose as your estate representative, there are a few factors to consider in picking the right person. For example, you’ll want to choose someone of adult age, but also someone who will take the responsibility seriously.

When the time comes, they will have to take this as seriously as they would take any paid job. In fact, due to the time and responsibility involved, estate reps will be authorized to draw a small salary or compensation to pay them for their work. As such, you should choose someone who is trustworthy and has a good credit standing to ensure they will act with honesty and integrity.

Your home state may also restrict eligibility. For example, most states have rules against allowing someone with a criminal record to serve as an estate representative.

But in the U.S., the criminal justice system is often rigged against racial minorities, with African Americans often being more likely to be wrongfully arrested, shot at, convicted, and thrown into jail for longer times than white people. (Source: https://bencrump.com/blog/racial-injustice-in-america/).

That is why if a loved one would make a great estate representative, but they are a minority, and a criminal record stands in the way, consider hiring a racial discrimination lawyer first to see if you can get that cleared up.

What Will an Estate Representative Do?

Upon your death, your estate representative will begin seeing to your final legal and financial affairs. This involves notifying your creditors that you died to give them time to submit a final claim for your debts.

This moves kicks off the probate process, which will require your representative to create an inventory of your assets and get your valuables appraised. This is necessary to determine how many of your assets will have to be liquidated to cover your estate taxes and debts.

Once the probate process is complete in three to six months, your estate representative will begin executing the final wishes you left as noted in your will. The executor will be responsible for distributing your assets in the manner you have specified in your estate plan.

The process of executing your will excludes any assets that have been instantly transferred. For example, a jointly owned home will pass the sole ownership to the surviving spouse, so it would not be included in the assets distributed via the will.


There’s no way to predict when a sudden illness or accident might cut your life short but having an estate plan in place will give you the peace of mind of knowing your family will be protected. This process involves choosing an estate representative, so make sure you choose someone you can trust.